No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I love Zhouqin’s puzzles. She makes Mondays fun. I thought I figured out this theme at the second answer I filled in. I was wrong.
- 9d [*Late-night Cartoon Network programming block] is ADULT SWIM.
- 17a [*Arthur Carlson portrayer on “WKRP in Cincinnati”] is the wonderful GORDON JUMP.
- 23a [*Job for a model] is a PHOTO SHOOT. This was the first theme answer I got; the second was 17a, so I thought we were doing basketball. Right genre, wrong sport.
- 32d [*Winter barrier] is a SNOW FENCE.
- 52a [*2000 stop-motion animated comedy hit] is CHICKEN RUN.
And the revealer: 60a [Summer Olympics contest whose participants do the ends of the answers to the starred clues]: PENTATHLON.
Six theme answers in a standard-sized Monday puzzle and it works beautifully. All the themers are solid, it was a lovely “aha” moment for a Monday, and the fill is smooth. Did I mention I love Zhouqin’s puzzles?
A few other things:
- I wanted to make PEACH cobbler last night and we couldn’t get ripe peaches, so I made this strawberry tart instead. Mmm. Recipe comments are my favorite comments.
- 25d [A folder is needed for this] is a fun clue for ORIGAMI.
- 42a [Producer Rhimes who created “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”] is, of course, SHONDA.
- 55d [“Give me five!”] is UP TOP, which will forever remind me of Vince McMahon, because many (most?) of the men I went to college with were McMahon acolytes.
- 69a [Bit of clothing often worn with shorts] is a TEE. “Bit” suggests a tiny tee, but they can be voluminous.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Harold RAMIS directed “Caddyshack.”
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Quite the timely puzzle for today’s holiday!
11D: FORCE PLAY [Ground out on which the fielder needn’t tag the runner]
17A: PARTY HAT [New Year’s Eve headwear]
35D: UNION JACK [Great Britain’s flag]
40A: POOL CUE [Billiards stick]
64A: LABOR DAY [September 2, 2019 … and what the first words of the answers to starred clues commemorate]
We have a series of theme entries that can follow the word labor: labor force, labor party, labor union, and labor pool. It’s a consistent puzzle in that the word LABOR never loses its same meaning throughout any of the uses, which I prefer to the meaning sometimes changing but sometimes not. Points for consistency and for presenting a largely complete set of labor ___ phrases in the themers.
That said, this felt a bit challenging for a Monday puzzle, especially with fill like LEA, SUFI, HONORE (crossed with ROI), TANIA, FAKIRS, and ROLF. If you look at my grid, I technically didn’t finish this puzzle because I got stuck at the ROLF/FAKIRS cross and had no clue. I almost got stuck at GER/FAKIRS as well, but made an educated guess with GER. There was a lot of fill I did like though, including PARTY HAT, BOO HISS, and YAY ME – those bits of personality kept me engaged in the puzzle. I did note a slight inelegance / dupe with [Online shopping mecca] at 2D and SHOPS AT at 29D, but it was made up for by fun connections between LECTER and CHIANTI, for example.
We have AMY Poehler and Patty (TANIA) Hearst representing as the only women in the puzzle – hopefully a future puzzle will give those women a bit more company!
Anna Shectman’s New Yorker crossword—Rachel’s write-up
This is my first review for Team Fiend! I have to say, when I signed on to take over the New Yorker reviews, I was both thrilled and a little terrified. This puzzle reminded immediately of why: it’s so clean and well-constructed, and it immediately forced me to reckon with my own literary/”high culture” shortcomings. These New Yorker themelesses are almost always beautiful and cleverly clued while also packed full of authors and artists and occasional umlauts, just like the magazine, and this puzzle was no exception!
(Although actually, there were no umlauts this time. I plan on keeping a running umlaut count in the future because New Yorker umlauts crack me up.)
- MOVADO in the NE truly stumped me, but it’s a brand that’s been around for 138 years, apparently, so it’s definitely a valid entry! Most of the crosses were totally fair, too, but I naticked on the A in ADAIR — had oDAIR/MOVoDO
- AMIRITE crossing LIFEHACK crossing SIDEEYE in the NW is super fun and feels fresh, although I’m not at all sold on PAHS as fill to hold it all together.
- The morally neutral clue on DOXXING gave me pause– DOXXING is a tool of violence and terror, and calling it simply “vigilantism” misses that element. Combined with the “troll” clue on NORMIES, these two clue/entry pairs just felt a little off.
- Love seeing ASEXUAL in a grid (and any other letters of LGBTQIA+). Representation matters!
One quick note on grid design: Those very tall T’s at the center N/S make the grid feel super segmented, so it played a little like 4 Midi puzzles plus the middle, but I actually don’t mind that. Holding it all together with the hard-to-parse (while solving) KSTREET is also great– I had completely forgotten the setting for “Thank You For Smoking,” so remembering it to unlock the center of this puzzle was fun!
Overall, really excellent puzzle! Fresh and packed with a perfect blend of new and old.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, Themeless Monday #532—Jim Q’s review
GAS STATION SUSHI! That’s a great marquee entry. There’s a gas station near me that gets it right, but I still need someone else to buy it and tell me it’s from somewhere proper.
This has the marks of a BEQ themeless: quirky entries, clever clues, and lots of proper nouns, many of which I have never heard of. That last part is starting to eat at me when I open up a BEQ Monday. There are a couple of spots where one may be Naticked here. For me it was the was the EWAN/SADAT/NENA area. It definitely didn’t help that I spelled SADAT wrong (confidently SEDAT). When I fixed the error, I was able to guess the N correctly. And luckily, being a big fan of “Killing Eve,” I knew VILLANELLE with no help… but I’m doubting that answer is inferable for those unfamiliar with the series. With proper nouns abound in that area, perhaps a poetry clue would’ve been easier. Other names I struggled with were SZA (wanted SIA), ENES, SOREN, ELMORE, and LENDL. I’m rather surprised that OTTO and TORI were not clued as a proper nouns (in both those cases, it may have helped me a tad)!
- Didn’t know Barron Trump was a TEEN (as of March). Not that I care, but it was a harmless “fun fact” clue.
- You can’t drive TESLAs from the dealership? Why not? I don’t know how to Google that question, so if anyone knows…
- REDFORD founded the Sundance Film Festival. I think I knew this, but the puzzle was a good reminder. (Actually, it looks like like the head of REDFORD‘s company, Sterling Van Wagenen founded it, but that’s not a point I care enough to argue about.)
- JOKERS (wrong) has the same number of letters as DEUCES (correct).
OTHER GOOD STUFF:
- 32A [Woman
who does cross-training?] NUN. Took me a while before I stopped picturing and angry NUN (being “cross”). Haha! Good clue.
- 20A [___ letter (classic crossword theme)] ADD A. Way to make a terrible entry tolerable with a little meta wink.
- 1A [Musical opener?] DEBUT ALBUM. Man, there’s a lot of ways one can interpret this clue. It was fun to let the answer reveal itself.
Not my favorite BEQ, but enough to keep me wanting to hack away at the grid.
Sean Griffith’s Universal crossword, “A Matter of Perspective”—Jim Q’s review
Next time somebody texts you the message “Where R U?” I dare you to respond “THE MILKY WAY.” That’d be great.
THEME: YOU are here!
Clue for all is [36-Down are here]
- 20A PLANET EARTH.
- 32A MILKY WAY.
- 47A UNIVERSE.
- 63A SOLAR SYSTEM.
- 36D [Person reading this clue] YOU.
Hopefully ABYSS doesn’t apply to your whereabouts, or UNDERSEA for that matter (unless you’re safely aboard a submarine).
It looks to me as if this is a debut from Sean, so congratulations! And welcome! This was a lighthearted, fun puzzle to introduce yourself. The word count is surprisingly high at 80, which seems odd given that two of the themers are only 8 letters. I’m curious to know if other grids were attempted with PLANET EARTH and SOLAR SYSTEM in rows 3 and 13. With 80 words, the fill tends to be shorter with fewer opportunities for dazzling fill. There are only a handful of entries that exceed 5 letters here, so nothing really new to uncover.
I grinned at 73A [Nintendo rival] SEGA. That exact clue was used in a NYT recently and it angered some people for its dated nature (“Is this 1997??… one tweet started before ranting on a bit too passionately).
Fun puzzle with a cute theme. Just surprised that the standard 78 word limit was exceeded for a theme that doesn’t seem to require it, though I guess getting YOU dead center using both MILKY WAY and UNIVERSE added restraint.
I really wish the NYT would stop cluing Incas as “Ancient” Peruvians. They were about contemporaneous with the Renaissance. We don’t refer to Columbus as an “ancient” explorer. There were earlier civilizations in Peru that could be called ancient, but not the Incas.
Welcome, Rachel! Nice write-up!
If you’re gonna keep a tally, know that most of those umlauts are diaeresis.
Öops! Quite right. Already sticking my foot in my mouth!
I swear it was a typo.
I was aware of the Modern Pentathlon before completing this puzzle and specifically aware of its relationship to the skills required by a cavalry man. The ancient Greeks had a similar pentathlon based on skills required of a soldier. Ironically, the army has developed its own military modern pentathlon, which is based on the skills required of a modern soldier. Its competitions are exclusive to the military: shooting, obstacle running, obstacle swimming,
throwing (grenades) and cross country running. I am not sure if each branch of the military has its own separate competition and events.
I did not realize that the women’s Pentathlon, which is a track and field test, was eliminated in the mid-1980s and replaced by the Heptathlon. Jackie Joyner Kersee dominated the event when it first switched to the Heptathlon.
Fun puzzle for me.
LA Times: The revealer says that the first words of the theme answers “commemorate” Labor Day. I don’t see how they do that. They simply are words that can follow labor. Certainly just the first words alone don’t commemorate Labor day.
Welcome Rachel, enjoyed your review. That whole NE section of the New Yorker gave me fits. Had never heard of MOVADO, MONONOKE, OMBRES, or ADAIR, so multiple Naticks up there. Other stuff I didn’t know were gettable from crosses … though surprised that I don’t recall seeing SETT before … seems like a very handy entry for constructors.
I’m late to the party, having solved the Sunday WaPo today (circumstances) but wanted to express admiration for the incredible feat of construction, and also for the fill. I didn’t know some of it (for example, FRING, BIGGS) but it was all gettable and the clues were as much fun as the fill. It was enjoyable all around.
SETT is really, really old crossword-ese, so I was happy to see it. That was about the only thing in the New Yorker puzzle that pleased me. I do not care for Shechtman’s puzzles in general, and this was a prime example. MONONOKE? OMBRES? VERMEER? ADAIR? All in the same freaking [I’m restraining myself] section? I have my own term for puzzles like this.
SETT was among the few things I disliked in the puzzle.
Is this what explains the shockingly low star ratings for the New Yorker puzzles? That they don’t espouse the general stodginess of the newspaper crosswords edited by men, most of them over age 65? Princess Mononoke was Miyazaki’s first big film with a global audience, back in 1997. Ombre is a hair and fabric dye technique, with color gradations. Probably not a term that the 65+ men are conversant with, but I appreciate crossword fill that resonates more with women than with men (for a change).
Vermeer is, well, Vermeer. Get a few letters from crossings and think of painters who might have been well-known in Proust’s time, and it should come together. And if you’d read the comments on the Saturday NYT, you’d have picked up the name Gilbert Adair like I did!
BEQ review: “You can’t drive TESLAs from the dealership? Why not?”
Because there are no Tesla dealerships.
Some further reading:
New Yorker: Those aren’t umlauts; they’re diereses.